What's the point?
by AndyBDec 12th 2014
After putting a group of swimmers through an unannounced 1500mTT this week I had a variety of comments about the purpose and relevance of the session. As a result I sent the following e-mail to explain my thoughts and rationale. Reading it again I thought I would add it to my blog in case it has relevance for anyone else too. In places it's a bit cheesy; in places it's completely serious; both by design. Those of you who know me well know my humour!...
I've had a few questions as to 'The Point' of doing a 1500m time trial last night; a few weeks before Christmas; without being told; in a choppy pool; with crowded lanes... so I thought I would share my thoughts with all of you.
Firstly, think yourselves lucky, I have been known to enter athletes into a race and give them less than 12 hours notice of the event; that made a few of them sweat; but they dealt with it. In their own way, they dealt with it and learnt from it.
There are two reasons behind doing a 1500m time trial last night. The first was plain and simple; swim as fast as you can for the distance of a standard distance triathlon - it's what many of you are training for so why not practise it? With numbers for the previous few sessions being lower it was quite possible that you could have been two or three to a lane, conditions would have been calmer and everyone would have had their splits recorded throughout their time trial however, this was not to be so the emphasis swung massively to reason number two, which is actually the more important reason - dealing with an unexpected event.
Throughout my time coaching I have often put in time trials for athletes without telling them and I have often recieved the same mixed response. It could be suggested that these times trials are wrongly named as they are not really about the time, instead they could just be 'trials' or 'tests'. Putting athletes into an uncomfortable situation and seeing how they deal with this is more productive than any time recorded on a watch last night. I don't need to tell you that races do not go to plan; that the swim was choppy, other people got in the way; I was stuck behind others - it's all part of the challenge, but is that challenge an opportunity or a threat? It's certainly natural to feel slightly threatened and have thoughts of: 'If I'd known about it before I could have prepared myself better'; 'I'm not very happy about this'; 'Don't smile at me Andy - I don't like you very much right now' and 'What is the point?'. The key is tell yourself that this challenge is an opportunity, to crack on and deal with the situation, find your way through it and do your best; ultimately, to embrace the challenge. This is not as easy as it is to write, the negative thoughts are often strong so you need your bank of positive thoughts, sayings and images to repeat to yourself to get through the challenge. You need to know what songs to sing or a fun way of counting to find, settle into and ultimately maintain your rhythm. This process is the same as in a race therefore this session too is training, to some it will be more valuable than physical training.
When dealing with adversity learn about what works for you. Write it down and keep it in a safe place such as in a diary, on your phone so you can look at it regularly, or on your water bottle or keep it under your pillow; ok maybe not under the pillow! Record your own playlist or statements onto an ipod, make a little video or have clips of things that make you believe you can achieve and deal with adverse situations. Read it, listen to it, watch it when you are relaxed, this reinforces it so you can come back to it when you are challenged and be more likely to believe it and in yourself, under pressure. There is nothing wrong with writing statements such as 'I can deal with unexpected situations'; 'I can be strong when the going gets tough'; 'Whatever comes through those gates, you will stand your ground with a smile on your face'; 'You are a tiger, Grrrr' (oops I might have let one of mine slip in there!) and repeating these when faced with a challenging situation.
If you want to improve your performance in a race it's not always about the physical; understanding how your head processes adversity then working to deal with it better can reap great rewards too. This kind of situation repeated will help make you more resilient, strong and able to deal with the unexpected in a race - because the unexpected can and sometimes will happen.
Finally, I know that to some of you this is probably all old news but for others, less so. However, I encourage you all to take the opportunity to review how you responded to last nights challenge, learn from it and develop ways of thinking more positively when faced with a challenge in the future. Even those of you who felt you dealt with the situation well, do not rest on your laurels, take 10 minutes or more to ask yourself 'what more can I do?' or 'Can I do anything better?'. Write it down, review it and make plans to put it into place next time. Yes, of course there will be a next time but who knows when; and remember, in the words of the (possibly less than?) mighty Morcheeba: It's all part of the process (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tx6g0hVxCWU)
See you all soon!
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